A new cross-sectoral collaboration has been announced to promote the responsible use of medicines in pets and horses.
Inspired by the success of the UK farm animal sector in reducing antibiotic use over the past five years, the RUMA Companion Animal and Equine Group will draw on those learnings to help protect important medicines for future human and animal use.
Steve Howard, head of clinical services at the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals and secretary general of the new group, explains that the initiative will initially focus on encouraging innovative and proactive efforts to promote responsible antibiotic use.
“RUMA has spearheaded successful efforts to steward antibiotic use in farmed animals over the past five years, and we would like to see whether its principles can augment the considerable progress that’s already been made in the companion animal and equine sectors,” says Mr Howard.
“The most notable of RUMA’s initiatives is the Targets Task Force, which has seen leading vets and farmers from each species working together with industry groups to develop meaningful goals for reducing, refining or replacing antibiotic use.
“Through establishing such proactive approaches towards antibiotic stewardship in companion animals and equines, we hope to optimise their health and welfare – as well as that of humans and the environment,” he says.
Although total antibiotic sales are significantly lower for companion animals compared with the farming sector, even relatively low use can result in resistance to key medicines if good stewardship principles are not applied. This in turn can create risk to both animals and their owners through their close interactions.
The collaboration will cover use of medicines in dogs, cats, rabbits, small mammals, exotic animals kept as pets, and equids. The aim is for the UK to lead the way in these sectors through evidence-based and measurable activities that will promote and enhance stewardship.
“As we’ve learned from the farm livestock industry, the engagement of stakeholders from across all companion animal and equine sectors, including partnerships with veterinary organisations and regulators will again be key to success,” says Mr Howard.
“We would like to thank the wide range of sector stakeholders who have engaged with us to date to help develop and shape this new initiative.”
Bringing previous experience from RUMA to the new group, Gwyn Jones, appointed chair, says a fundamental aim will be establishing a set of strategic sector-specific goals.
“As a collaborative group we need to establish evidence-based protocols for reducing, replacing or refining antibiotic use in companion animals, to further help preserve and prolong the use of these vital tools for human and animal health,” says Mr Jones.
“Efforts will be focused towards identifiable goals so that progress can be monitored and demonstrated. But we will also promote practical, practice-level resources, guidance and measures aimed at driving positive behaviour changes and protecting patients and practitioners alike.”
The group aims to provide evidence of progress to report against the UK Government’s five-year national action plan for containing and controlling antimicrobial resistance, he adds. “Like the farmed animal sectors, this is a voluntary initiative, but one done with the best interests of both animals and humans at its core.”